Board Communiqué for 4 May 2023
The Board met in person, and online, from 8:30am to 4.45pm. Due respects to the fallen by the President, and an Acknowledgement of Country by the Chair were made.
The President briefed the Board on his observations and extensive member feedback from phone calls and visits around the State. The President particularly commented on the following:
- The great success of ANZAC Day 2023. Attendance numbers were significantly up compared to previous years and the President commended all sub-Branches for their hard work and dedication. He noted that maintaining the RSL’s leadership role for commemorations was vital in all our communities. The corresponding media coverage, driven and coordinated by ANZAC House, raised the profile and standing of the RSL significantly.
- Many sub-Branches’ relationships with local schools were prominent and welcomed, and aligned with the Strategic Plan’s Goals.
- While acknowledging the volunteerism, District Councils are not managing sub-Branches in their District, with many not compliant with the Constitution. The President noted the ask on volunteers to meet contemporary regulatory requirements amplified the need to rapidly progress the planned reform of Districts and provide full-time paid resources to assist District and sub-Branch volunteers is critical.
- A major concern was raised about the increasing number of Affiliate members who are in executive roles where there are not suitably willing or qualified Service Members. This rationale was the basis for introducing the affiliate category of membership, it was not a category so members can benefit from the charity, but assist it, as many Affiliate members do. The Auxiliary membership category was specifically historically introduced to assist with charity related support, including fundraising.
- The frustration of having to wait over 12 months for the RSL Protocol Manual (RSL National level document) to be released for sub-Branches was raised. So many people continue to ask about the correct ways to conduct commemorations or where to position flags etc. (It was noted that the State Secretary is following this up with RSL Australia)
- The President was very pleased to see many sub-Branches embracing the benefits of the Sport & Recreation Program and continuing to see so many younger people joining the League as they see sub-Branches moving beyond just holding meetings.
- The President said he’d had a positive initial meeting with new NSW Minister for Veterans, and several meetings with Federal Ministers about legislative reform and RSL NSW Strategic Plan.
RSL Australia Ltd (National)
Director Bryan Slattery back briefed on the RSL Australia 30 March Board meeting and several ongoing issues. RSL Australia is assessing the roll-out of federally supported Veterans Wellbeing Centres (now ‘Veteran’s and Family’s Hubs) and how they will be supported after DVA capital and initial Operational Expenditure expires.
He flagged the imminent end of the Federal Government funding for the RSL Employment Program (Noting RSL LifeCare will continue the program regardless of Federal support.) The feedback from RSL NSW (as the National member) on the National Strategic Plan has been received and will be considered at a workshop on 31 May. The ‘Catalogue of Services’ (as per RSL NSW Strategic Plan) is under review after completion of the Pilot stage. A decision on its future is being considered, including the funding of a further development stage.
The CEO’s Report, including the Program Management Office (PMO) reports (Strategic Plan implementation), were discussed, and noted, as were issues and actions to be taken, including:
- Three joint (with RSL LifeCare as lead applicant) applications submitted for Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs in Tweed, Queanbeyan, and Hunter areas, and on the invitation of DVA, a supplementary submission on how RSL NSW sees services being delivered across the greater Sydney area, including the Central Coast. This request occurred after RSL NSW advised DVA that it was difficult to justify the investment as a ‘full’ Hub in the Hawkesbury area. DVA will advise in due course of which if any on the applications are successful, and the next steps of developing the business case.
- District Rationalisation – Membership for Reference and Working Groups has been confirmed by the DPC and meeting schedules are set, commencing mid-May. The objective is to have an agreed position for consideration at Congress 2023.
- Future ANZAC House – The Board noted that discussions about a future permanent site for ANZAC House are continuing.
- Funding Model – A communications plan for the implementation of the new policy and procedure (SOP) “Funding the Charitable Purpose” approved at the March Board meeting following its review by the DPC, has been developed and execution will commence in May. It was delayed because of the League-wide focus on ANZAC Day. A positive assurance that the policy and procedures have been read and understood by sub-Branch executives will be sought, and the Policy and SOP will be uploaded on the website so they can be referenced, even if the full communications has not been considered by sub-Branches. This means executives seeking immediate guidance can access the new policy which for instance precludes donations (expenditure) to other veterans’ charities, unless approved through the Veteran Support Fund process.
- The Board noted several higher order risks to RSL NSW including ongoing non-compliances by sub-Branches on expenditure outside of the Charitable Purpose. The Board discussed the steps being taken to mitigate these risks
- The status of the recruitment process of a new General Counsel role was noted.
- The Strategic Plan Implementation Program Report was noted and approved for uploading on the website.
RSL LifeCare Update
John Hutcheson updated the Board on meetings with RSL LifeCare prior to a presentation on the updated RSL LifeCare Strategy and accompanying Strategic Plan by RSL LifeCare CEO, Janet Muir, and other RSL LifeCare executives.
An updated Terms of Reference for the Joint Working Group (charged with informal consideration of any Constitutional or strategic matters) was approved.
The Board noted RSL LifeCare’s request to review the RSL LifeCare director remuneration pool and request for an additional director to address a skills/experience gap. RSL LifeCare is currently undertaking a benchmarking process and the RSL NSW Board will consider RSL LifeCare’s request further when they receive the benchmarking results.
The Board was very pleased to learn about the new RSL LifeCare strategy which clearly puts veterans and their families at the centre of RSL LifeCare’s operations, including one of four pillars underpinning their Strategic Plan specifically relating to veterans’ wellbeing and positive life experiences. This further translated to increasing the scale and services for veterans, which RSL NSW’s sub-Branches make a major contribution to through the Veteran Support Fund. A copy of the RSL LifeCare Strategy will be made available to RSL NSW members once released by RSL LifeCare. Directors were also pleased to see the importance of brand and strategy alignment with RSL NSW in the presentation.
CFO Report and Business Performance Report
The Board noted the CFO Report and Business Performance Report. The directors were pleased to see the full year forecast for a surplus.
MATTERS FOR DECISION:
Audit & Risk Committee
The Board approved the Risk and WHS Reports.
Nominations, Remuneration & Performance Committee
The Board noted the process to assess FY 22/23 Corporate Objectives, and CEO’s performance review. The updated Committee Charter was approved.
Board Election Returning Officer
The Board noted the outcomes of the procurement process and approved the appointment of Link Market Services as the Returning Officer and supplier to support this year’s Board Director
The annual review of the Board Charter incorporated minor changes and was approved for uploading on the RSL NSW website.
Brand Management and Regulation
The National RSL Board Chair, Mr David Nathan, joined the meeting. RSL National (Australia Ltd) owns the trademark ‘RSL’ and associated logos. The Board had a discussion with Mr Nathan regarding the challenges of managing the trademarks, how this impacts RSL NSW and RSL Australia’s branding and reputation, and what steps might be taken to have greater control of the use of branding and trademarks.
Narrabeen sub-Branch In-principle Approval
The sub-Branch sought the Board’s in-principle agreement to enter negotiations with three possible lessees. The Board approved the continuation of commercial negotiation with the lessees, with ANZAC House support. The Board further required the sub-Branch to look at other options to achieve the charitable purpose so a comparison could be done across a full range of options including the investment of returns from a property divestment.
MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION:
Awards and Nominations Criteria
The Board noted the array of, and processes associated with, RSL related awards.
Public Position Statement – Voice to Parliament
The Board noted the proposed position and asked that it be conveyed to RSL National. Simply, that RSL NSW asks all members to fully inform themselves on the issue so they can make an educated, personal, decision. The RSL in NSW does not have a corporate position on the Voice.
MATTERS FOR NOTING:
Progress on the wind up of the NSW AFOF (National AFOF continues) was noted, including the transfer of remaining balance to RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.
Young Veterans Committee
The Committee’s report was noted.
Sub-Branch and Members Matters
The Board noted the matters approved and rejected by the CEO under delegation. The CEO highlighted the increasing length and complexity of matters being bought to the attention of ANZAC House by sub-Branches for assistance. Resourcing was impacting on responsiveness. The Board noted the intention to bring an optimal resourcing option to the Board in June, as part of the budget process.
The Board noted the update.
- ANZAC of the year Awards, noted. (Nomination from Woolgoolga was successful)
- Selections Committee Recommendations – Certificate of Merit & Gold Badge
Updated Strategic Plan
The Board noted the inclusion of the approved amendments from last month’s review process and noted the CEO’s intention to release the 2023 Update.
Key Board Correspondence
Items of correspondence were discussed, noting actions that had been taken.
The Board approved a membership application from a DFAT officer who was attached to an Army unit in Afghanistan, to join North Bondi RSL sub-Branch.
The Board noted the status of the RSL LifeCare/RSL NSW fundraising Poppy Ball.